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- A New Collection of Uneasy Tales -

ISBN 0709029322

- no dedication -


The second of Halliwell's three ghost story compilations, this one containing thirteen tales and a poem.


Author's Note :



Why has the cinema produced so few ghost stories?  Perhaps because most of the classic tales would resist filming, depending as they do on cerebral rather than visual concepts.  In writing the final story of this collection I had a little fun at the cinema’s expense, but otherwise I sought my spirits principally in old dark houses and haunted fields, as did the master of the genre, M. R. James, who died just fifty years ago.  It was, I suppose, my admiration of James which prompted me to stand in the shadow of his chilling phrases: but I have always found in fantasy an elegant an amusing form of escape from the often tiresome reality of the world in which we live.  This particular group of stories also pleasantly recalls places in which I have spent time, from California to Iceland and the South of France, as well as the less urban parts of Britain.  Some are based on real events: ‘The Past of Mrs Pickering’ began with a letter to my elder sister from a friend whose health was cracking, ‘Memorial Service’ was sparked off by my having to attend such an occasion, and both ‘Come into the Garden Mawdsley’ and ‘The Horror at Hops Cottage’ are based on houses which I know very well.
            Do I believe in Ghosts?  I think I once saw one, but that was more than forty years ago, oddly enough in the eighteenth century rectory then presided over by Stanley Leatherbarrow, who not only introduced me to the works of M. R. James but himself became no mean writer of supernatural tales and helped to inspire these further attempts by his old friend and pupil.

Leslie Halliwell
July 1986


The stories are:


Escape to Akureyri
The Past of Mrs Pickering
Take Off Your Cap When a Funeral Passes
The Smile on the Face of the Kite
Come Into the Garden, Mawdsley
The Haunting of Joshua Tree
Where Not to Buy Cufflinks in Stockholm
The Day of the Jester
Memorial Service
La Nuit Des Chiens
The Horror at Hops Cottage
The Man with the Dundreary Weepers
Smoking-Room Story


... and the poem is:





                                                                The wheelchair rested by a grassy bank,
                                                                And there, beneath a near-exhausted sun
                                                                My lady breathed a harsh and swollen sigh.
                                                                Limply she rested, labours all but done.

                                                                Her spirit shrank from long embattlement,
                                                                Her mind sustained nor bitterness nor wrath.
                                                                She only hoped that soon her love would come
                                                                With subtle remedies to smooth her path.

                                                                The shadows lengthened, and a milky breeze
                                                                Induced her soon to dream, as did the day.
                                                                A squirrel scampered past her icy toes;
                                                                She made no move to check it from its play.

                                                                At last she saw her lover from afar:
                                                                Anticipation caused her heart to beat.
                                                                He came to her, between the cypresses;
                                                                His heavy cloak swept silent at her feet.

                                                                She raised her eyes to look into his face.
                                                                Though shadows hid his features from her gaze,
                                                                She recognised the firmness of his touch;
                                                                She knew the wisdom of his ancient ways.

                                                                The doctor came before the sun was gone,
                                                                But found in her still form no sign of breath.
                                                                Her lover’s arms held her in close embrace;
                                                                Her lover’s lips were those of welcome Death.



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